Tinker Fest, organized by Imagin8ors and Tinkering Studio, Science Center, Singapore connects children, parents, educators and makers in a week-long celebration of the joy of learning’ through play, exploration and experimentation. As a part of festival we got an opportunity to have a dialogue with parents on “Raising Joyful Learners“.
The insightful questions thrown into the arena made us pause and think. How do we, as parents, raise motivated, engaged learners who are prepared to conquer unforeseen challenges of tomorrow? How do we make learning joyful and fun for our children? What are the ways to build early foundation for joyful learning?
Our esteemed panelist included-
Joanna Catalano (Head of Agency Relations for Asia Pacific, Google and Board Member of Female Founders) a mother of two who believes thateducation and technology combined will deliver sustained creativity and adaptive problem solving abilities to our children.
Anna Salaman (Executive Director, Playeum) an active champion for creativity in the lives of children. With an extensive background in arts and cultural programming, she has put her passion into practice at ArtScience Museum (Singapore), the Victoria & Albert Museum (UK) and the Discover Story Centre (UK).
Charlie Ang (Venture Investor, Business Futurist, Start Up Promoter) is a “Future Parent” – he raises his two children to be future innovators and entrepreneurs and plans to help other parents do the same.
Ei-Leen Tan (Deputy Director, Physical Sciences Department, Education Programmes Division, Science Centre Singapore) is one half of a pair o’ docs attempting to apply Piagetian principles to a 4 year old child with ideas of her own.
Daniel Tan (Senior Director of Projects & Exhibition Division in the Science Centre Singapore) father of 4 teenage children who encourages hands-on exploration for discovery and learning. He is also instrumental in initiating the development of the Tinkering Studio at the Science Centre.
The session took off with parents tinkering with their children at the various stations set up inside the Tinkering Studio. It was so precious to see the children take the lead with first-time -tinkerer parents.
The session moderator Balaji Ramanujan (President and Co-Founder Imagin8ors), then set the context about the new learning needs driven by a rapidly changing tech enabled world.
Anna Salaman brought forward the power of nurturing “intrinsic motivation” in children. Simple things like using less instructional language when we communicate with child, creating an environment that encourages self-directed exploration (e.g.. having varied types of materials lying around that the child can use), and providing more freedom to the child to set their own learning agenda helps with building the child’s intrinsic motivation.
Joanna Catalano talked about 21 Century skills like curiosity, diversity in approach and perspective, collaboration and motivation which would pave the path for the joyful learners. She believes that technology will play a big role in their lives and there was no separating them from it. It is up to parents to make technology work for us in an active way.
Daniel Tan felt that children should learn because the process brings joy not because of the result or awards that follow. That was the whole idea behind setting up the Tinkering Studio. He strongly emphasised that the knowledge the children gather by themselves, understanding through exploration shall stay with them forever. Maybe they may not understand the science behind it immediately but soon they will be able to connect the dots. Ergo relating better to the principles taught in the classrooms.
Ei-Leen Tan underlined how computers gave children a safe environment to learn new things in novel, interactive ways. But she felt that parents should watch out for – “Is the child programming the computer or is the computer programming the child?” She also shared how letting children create a mess is a necessary part of helping children explore and learn, and touched a chord with the audience when she spoke of the busy lifestyles we parents lead and how it is difficult to put all these principles into action.
Charlie Ang spoke about preparing our children for the future and developing the required skill-sets in them. The skill-sets of an successful individual today will not be relevant in 2030. Our children will be the entrepreneurs and innovators of tomorrow and will use technology to solve problems. He shared how he converts even mundane tasks like shopping trips together into fun challenges and games his daughters and he play, that helps them learn something deeper.
As the talk progressed it became more interactive and parents in the audience chimed in with their views. Lup Wai a homemaker, blogger and mother to two adorable, creative children shared how she bonded with them over housework. While daily chores need to be finished, it need not be just a chore but an opportunity for parent and child to co-work and co-create. Children would find their ways to solve problems they faced, collaborate and develop empathy for their caregivers.
Ajay Sharma shared how he was productively using screen and digital media to learn and bond with his daughter while he traveled. He shared a delightful story of seeing a sunflower plant grow from seed to flower and how his daughter clicked pictures and send it across to him, just so that daddy would know about how their plant was doing.
Susanna Hasenoerhl, mom and founder of the joiceofcooking, spoke how she used sports as a fantastic and joyful medium of learning. She also made an insightful comment on the disconnect between the need to inspire joy in learning, and the rote learning still prevalent across many parts of the education system. The panel spoke of how we parents need to add our voices to this debate and help accelerate change in education.
So many enriching thoughts, ideas and suggestions! As expected if you bring a few parents together you can find solutions for just about anything. Each of our participants had their own strong value systems, perspectives and methodology. But all came together in agreeing on the critical role parents play in nurturing the spark of lifelong learning in children, of inspiring them to find joy in it!